[email protected]: Mutharika says we have reasons to celebrate

President Prof, Peter Mutharika said on Sunday, that Malawians have every reason to merry-make and celebrate their hard-won independence on July 6 and consolidate the unity of purpose in the country.

Malawi attained independence from the British Government on 6 July 1964 and Sunday marked its golden jubilee at a public stadium in Lilongwe which was attended by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and former Malawi leader Bakili Muluzi among other diginitaries.

Mutharika in his speech to the crowds who filled the stadium to capacity, said July 6 was “very important day”in the history of the nation which marked  50 years of independence under the theme: “Transforming our nation with a shared vision and renewed commitment to hard work and integrity for sustainable development.”

President Mutharika at the celebrations

President Mutharika at the celebrations

Ex-president Bakili Muluzi arrives at the golden jubilee celebrations

Ex-president Bakili Muluzi arrives at the golden jubilee celebrations

“ This is an important day for all Malawians because we are celebrating that we have not only attained 50 years of independence but also 50 years of peace, stability, progress and prosperity,” said Mutharika, adding that it is also time for reflection on the performance of the nation  and  how to move forward.

“Let us all celebrate this day because we have every reason to do so,” said Mutharika.

“We have to celebrate because of the remarkable progress we have achieved over the years. Indeed we need to celebrate because, among other things, 50 years ago, we did not have some of the hospitals we have today; 50 years ago we did not have some of the roads we have today; 50 years ago, we did not have a single public university, let alone private ones; and most importantly, 50 years ago we did not have the democracy we have today,” the Malawi leader said.

He pointed out that standards of living have “increased remarkably” and that there has also been a notable drop in inequality.

The President noted that tn terms of human development, using Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators, the country ranks among the top 20 performers, in relation to both absolute and relative progress.

“This is something worth celebrating,” said Mutharika.

He also highlighted that since attaining independence, Malawi has also continued to be an island of peace in Africa.

Mutharika paid tribute to development partners who have helped Malawi ever since she  became independent and continue to help the nation, saying: “.I want them to know that Malawi is highly indebted to them.”

Mutharika said despite the many achievements the country has registered, there were still many challenges.

“Our country is still one of the least developed countries in the world. Our health and education systems are on the verge of collapse, HIV/AIDS continues to threaten our nations’ development. Our economy is in a sorry state and, in general, Malawians are on average poorer than they were in 1964,” pointed out the Malawi leader.

Mutharika said Malawians “must take collective responsibility” for the country’s failures and shortfalls.

However,  the President said, “these weaknesses should not make us despair because the future is not bleak. All we need to do is learn from our past mistakes and resolve to do better as we strive to take our country to greater heights.”

He said the next 50 years presents an opportunity to “reset our priorities, rethink our strategic focus, redefine Malawi, and make it very progressive.”

“My fellow Malawians, we need to transform our country from being a predominantly importing and consuming country to a predominantly producing and exporting country; we must create sufficient substantive jobs and new wealth for our people; our country must be food self-sufficient; our country must transform the agricultural primary commodities, other raw materials and minerals into value. At 50 today, we must strive for economic and development independence,” he said.

Mutharika also paid tribute to compatriots who “sacrificed their lives” for  Malawi to gain independence.

The President also hailed founding president Kamuzu Banda as a hero of independence, saying “whether one likes or not, Kamuzu Banda was a visionary leader who laid a solid foundation for the country’s social and economic development despite ruling with an iron fist.”

And noted that in 1992 Malawians expressed dissatisfaction with the increasingly autocratic rule of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) under Kamuzu Banda and in March 1992, the Catholic Bishops wrote a pastoral letter denouncing Kamuzu’s disregard for human rights.

“This led to struggle for political pluralism led by some key figures, including the late Chakufwa Chihana, who was jailed for speaking openly against Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Pressure for multiparty democracy mounted and Kamuzu consequently called for a referendum in June 1993, during which Malawians voted in favour of multiparty democracy.

“And on 17 May 1994, Malawians went to the polls to vote in the first ever multi party Parliamentary and Presidential Elections and His Excellency, Dr. Bakili Muluzi, was elected president of the first multi-party government after 30 years of attaining our independence,” Mutharika narrated the history of the country.

He said the struggle did not end with the May 1994 elections as Malawians have been trying to perfect their independence through democratic elections that saw the country being led Bakili Muluzi from 1994 to 2004;  late Bingu Wa Mutharika from 2004 to Joyce Banda through the constitution from 2012 to 2014; and now  Peter Mutharika.

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